He ranks ninth for most consecutive NFL games with a touchdown pass (30 of them), but Ben “Big Ben” Roethlisberger is more than “just a jock.” Twelve years ago, the Ohio native bought a police dog for his hometown of Findlay, and since then, the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation has purchased (and paid to train) 130 German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois for police departments in Western Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and several other communities to the tune of $1.9 million for the dogs, the training, and the police equipment.
It all started when the former Miami University quarterback learned that “Flip,” a K9 for the police force in his hometown had been killed when he got out of the yard of his handler, K9 Officer Bryon Deeter. Roethlisberger spent $8,900 to purchase and train Deeter’s new partner, “Spike.” To thank Mr. Roethlisberger for his generosity, Officer Deeter made a 7-minute video featuring Flip, Spike, and their benefactor in action. The song on the soundtrack is “Friend Ben,” a lyrical riff on Ted Nugent’s “Fred Bear:”
Today, the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation helps support police and fire departments throughout the U.S. with a particular emphasis on support for K-9 units and service dogs, but it also supports Ronald McDonald House Charities as well as the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Ben Roethlisberger grew up with dogs, and credits his parents (who have a Coonhound and Golden Retriever) for his love of dogs, and Ben’s own family includes “Remy,” a Vizsla, and “Kota,” a German Shepherd Dog, a Rottweiler named “Zeus” who died of cancer in 2013. He has one more dog we’ll get to in a moment.
It was his dad who encouraged him to make police dogs his charitable mission. “My Dad instilled in me a love and respect for animals. This is a good way to combine that passion with a desire to support the police and fire departments, which deserve all the appropriate resources needed to protect our cities and neighborhoods, and allow these brave men and women to arrive home safely,” he wrote on his website, but dogs are personal to Roethlisberger. In 2006, he traveled to Switzerland to discover his family’s roots. He visited a rustic farmhouse in the lush green valley of Geissbuehl, Lauperswil where Ben’s great, great grandfather lived before emigrating to the U.S. in 1873. He met a former Miss Swiss; he visited the then current world champion cheese maker, he ran through a tunnel of ice cut out of a glacier, and oh, he found a Bernese Mountain Dog to bring home. He named his Berner, “Hercules.”
Despite being out for the season with an injury, Roethlisberger is still making an impact. A few weeks ago, Roethlisberger announced a grant award to the Los Angeles Police Department that will be used to add to its K9 unit.
In an article for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, writer, Kevin Kirkland, pens, “Big Ben’s dogs are everywhere, serving police partners & communities.” Indeed they are, and they are grateful. So even if you can’t root for the Steelers, think well of Ben Roethlisberger. And as an aside, every dog mentioned in this post has been a purebred dog.